For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. (Deuteronomy 32:9-11)
The Bible has a lot to say about treasure, and how our individual attitudes towards things affects our spiritual walk and relationship with God. A very familiar motif is that of the man and the perfect pearl in Matthew 13:44-46, a parable which beautifully illustrates the longing of God’s heart and the lengths to which He is willing to go in order to restore mankind to right relationship with Him.
The parable, as a revelation of God’s love and desire to fellowship with us, is wonderfully encouraging, but it also touches on a deep spiritual truth that underpins the entire Bible – God’s attitude towards us. It is true that any attention He might give us is a gift of grace. It is true that this grace is beyond measure, to the point where God gave all in Christ to bring us ‘home’ as the precious pearl on which He has set His heart. But God has himself taken this one step further. He has said – which is the equivalent of a promise to Himself – that His people are His portion. A closer look brings a ‘treasure’ of truth that adds to the riches we already have in Jesus.
The concept of ‘portion’ plays an integral part throughout the Bible. It occurs as early as Genesis and the story of Abraham – God calls Him to be separated from his family and for Himself, and in return promises him a vast inheritance. The first meaning of portion that emerges is that of inheritance, and this continues throughout the Bible. It has the emphasis on familial heirs, i.e. the distribution of a family’s property, and therefore relates particularly to the Father relationship God has with His people.
This concept of inheritance also operated on a national level. When the Jews crossed the Jordan River and began taking the promised land, it was with the understanding that each tribe was assisting the other in taking ownership of their promised portion. Canaan was divided or apportioned, on God’s specific instructions, between the twelve tribes, each with their own allotment. As God’s people, the nation’s portion was Israel. Within that, each tribe had a specific portion or area of land, and within that the individual families had theirs. It was perfectly ordered and controlled, based on the concept of legal portion or inheritance.
That was the God to man principle, but it has a reciprocal implication as revealed in today’s verse. The inheritance was and is to His people, those who, like Abraham, come apart from the world and enter into the Father-son relationship, i.e. identify with God and willingly become His children and subject to His authority. In so doing, we become His portion – those out of the human race who choose to love and serve Him. While God loves the world, while Jesus died for the world, while He takes no pleasure in the destruction of anyone, God’s portion will be those who willingly come to Him.
The other meaning of portion which adds value is that of marriage portion. A bride brought this with her as her inheritance from her father. It usually included money or other unfixed commodities but may have included property outside of the family portion or allotment. The significance of this was important. Her brothers would have inherited the property and the ‘family holdings’ and this amounted to her share of the estate, to use modern legal terms in the interests of simplicity.
The issue of marriage portions was complex and could become quite convoluted. For now, one significant principle is important. A bride’s portion should not be confused with the more modern concept of the dowry – where her family essentially paid the bridegroom to marry her – or the bride price, where the husband pays the bride’s family. The biblical marriage portion was owned by the bride but usually managed or controlled by the husband. For example, should they divorce, she had the right to demand its return.
This is a wonderful reflection, once again, of the relationship God has with His people. He enters into a marriage contract with us. While the bride retains free will – ownership of self and the right to make her own decisions – she surrenders this willingly to ‘management’ of her husband. She retains her portion, but she becomes – in very practical terms – His portion. He takes responsibility for protecting, managing and caring for her inheritance as if it were His own. Placing herself under His covering does not mean that the bride loses what she is or has. It means that He assumes the responsibility for developing it to its full potential.
The third meaning of portion relates to military conquest. It was customary in ancient times to pay soldiers from the spoils of war. They were rewarded for their loyalty and service though allotments or portions of whatever they took from the defeated nations. Aside from currency, treasure and animals, slaves were often included, the inhabitants being carried off as possessions by the victors.
This is where the cross becomes so significant. God Himself, through Jesus, gave His life to defeat the enemy that held us captive. There is no neutral territory in the spiritual realm. We are either citizens of the kingdom of heaven or of the kingdom of darkness. It’s one or the other. In spiritual terms, the Bible defines this as being captives, slaves, prisoners, bound in and to the kingdom of darkness. We are, in essense, the spoils of Satan in the spiritual war until salvation. The cross is the point of victory at which Christ took us back from the devil and his armies.
The problem, though, is that although the victory is an accomplished fact on a spiritual level, we retain free will. We can choose to enter God’s kingdom and our inheritance in Him or to return to the kingdom of darkness. If we choose Jesus, we enter into sonship in Him and receive the portion of freedom, forgiveness, righteousness…all the things that Jesus came to bring. Our portion is sonship and all that goes with it. On the other hand, the portion of the kingdom of darkness is exactly the opposite – slavery, bondage, curses and destruction.
Those who come to Christ are God’s portion, His share of the ‘spoils’ of the spiritual war. It’s significant that the only thing He desires is His people. As the source of everything, He has no need for treasure or livestock or anything else that may have value to the world. His only passion is for His people. Those who come to Him enter into a glorious inheritance and receive a portion beyond measure – we receive God Himself, His perfect Son, and the wonderful Holy Spirit.
When we look at it this way, God has clearly got the worst of the bargain. What could we who, but for His grace and mercy are nothing more than dirty, rotten sinners, possibly bring that could balance what He gives us? Everything we are, have, and could be on our own has absolutely no relevance at all. In fact, we belong to Him anyway, given that He is the creator and we simply the work of His hands.
This is the magnitude His amazing grace. God desires us for His portion. He is willing to adopt us in Jesus, to fight for us and even die for us in Jesus, to pay the ultimate price in Jesus, to woo us tenderly as a bride and teach us lovingly as a parent. We may be the pearl of great value, but the value does not reside in us. It resides in what God desires. In the property industry, it was a common expression that the value of a property was always determined by what the buyers were prepared to pay for it. The principle is exactly the same.
God, in His infinite and perfect wisdom, has selected us as His portion, and is willing to do anything to obtain it, to keep it, to protect it and to nurture it. Everything is in place to make us that perfect pearl, the joy of His heart. In Jesus, He provides the way. All that remains is our surrender to our proper place in the inheritance. In each of the meanings relevant to the concept of portions, the matter of choice is paramount.
God has chosen – My people will be My portion. Our part is as clear. He says that He will be our God and we will be His people. It’s up to us to choose, not only to be willing to enter into the covenant relationship but also our depth of surrender. The underlying principle behind God as Father, Husband and Conquering King is that of love. Receiving our portion means entering into the same attitude. The Song of Solomon says: My beloved is mine and I am His. No grey areas, no excuses, no witholding of anything. All or nothing. He is the God of perfectly perfect and completely complete.
Lord, help us to see the height, the depth, the breadth and the completeness of Your love for us. As You have given all to bring us into the portion You have ordained for us, help us to surrender to Your will and perfect purpose, knowing that in all things You desire fullness of life, not slavery or bondage. Help us to love You more each day, to walk with You and for You, to joyfully yield to the wonderful privilege of being Your portion as You shape us and polish us and transform us into Your perfect pearls.